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He who seeks to approve himself in the sight of God, will often decline the praise of men, and he who, with unaffected lowliness of mind, is sensible of his failings and imperfections, will fear, lest, through the kind partiality of friends, his faults be overlooked, and an undue importance and an undeserved merit be attributed to his good deeds. Such were the feelings of the excellent person
who is the subject of the following Memoir, when in contemplation of his latter. end he expressed strongly his desire, that no character might be given of him after his death. “ There is no harm,” said he, “ in telling any thing that a man has done in the service of his Maker, for it may lead others to do the like; but God only knows the heart, and how imperfect are our best deeds, and how little use we make of the advantages we possess; therefore, do not give any character of me, nor let any person do it, if you can help it.” This injunction puts a strong restraint on the expression
of friendly regard, and even of filial affection ; but it sanctions, instead of forbidding, a plain unadorned narrative, and statement of those good deeds which live in the remembrance of such as witnessed them, and when related
excite others to active imitation. Thus, the object pursued through the life of him who is deceased may be carried forward after his death, and he may still continue to“ do good.” Such a statement is attempted in the following pages; and it is thrown into the form of a Biographical Memoir, as that which may be most interesting to his surviving friends, and most attractive to general readers.
The family from which Mr. Bowdler was sprung was formerly settled in Shropshire, in which county are two parishes of the name, Hope Bowdler and Ashford Bowdler. At the former of these places the family mansion stood ; and the word “ Hope,” taken in its modern signification, has been adopted for the family motto ; being, no doubt, originally applied to describe the situation of the place, which is a dingle or small valley surrounded by hills. The meaning of the word “ Bowdler" cannot, perhaps, be ascertained: the difficulty is increased by its being found in old signatures used indiscriminately with the French article and preposition, le and de; from the former of which it should seem to be a term descriptive of the person; from the latter, the name of a place. In this family, as in others, are some traditionary tales of virtue and prowess exhibited in days long since past. A more laudable satisfaction may be derived from the reflection, that, as far as well authenticated accounts can reach, those who have borne the name have been strictly upright, pious, and benevolent, maintaining sound principles both in church and state. It is a pleasing testimony to the various members of this family, that he who filled the principal place in each generation, always spoke with affection and reverence of those who had gone before, and lamented his own unworthiness to tread in his
Mr. Bowdler's great grandfather went to Ireland while young, and acted as deputy to the auditor general of the exchequer, auditor at wars, and auditor of imprests or foreign accounts. The employments that he was in, (to use his own expression,) though managed but indifferently, brought him into great esteem amongst some, and those not of the basest sort; and divers who wished his welfare, prompted him to marriage with a person whom he describes as far above him in birth, being the daughter of Dr. Henry Jones, formerly bishop of Clogher, and afterwards of Meath * ; and he writes in terms of great affection to his brother, who was settled in London, desiring his assistance in this affair. The marriage took place on the 1st of July 1658, and a twelvemonth after he writes to his brother, that his present condition is, by the mercy of God, to his own heart's desire, as to health and other outward blessings; "and though,” says he, “I cannot boast of wealth, yet I want not for a competent maintenance, His name be praised.” The return of King Charles II., and the appointment of the Marquis of Ormond to the lord lieutenancy, cheered the hearts and brightened the prospects of his loyal subjects; and in 1660, Mr. Bowdler expresses his “hope that all things will be closed up, and that they shall, like good Christians and subjects, fear God, honour the king, and love one another.” But the views of this excellent man were suddenly darkened when they were brightest, and his sun went down at noon day. He died in February 1661, at the age of 34 ; and was buried with much honor in the tomb of Archbishop Usher, formerly primate of Ireland. The letter in which the good Bishop of Meath announces this unhappy event to the elder brother of the deceased, is too interesting to be omitted, esspecially as it contains an honourable mention of their father.
* Eldest son of the Bishop of Killaloe, who married at the age of 63, and died at 103. He had five sons and three daughters, and lived to see the first son Bishop of Meath, the